Staff Sergeant Elmer Holmes Wilson (1907-1995)

Staff Sergeant Elmer Wilson was a charter member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen

Staff Sergeant Wilson posthumously received the 2007 Congressional Gold Medal in 2009

Elmer Holmes Wilson was born November 16, 1907 to Mrs. Emma Wilson in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Philadelphia public schools up to the seventh grade and had a natural intelligence and technical savvy that served him throughout his life.

As a young man, he worked as an auto mechanic for a local transportation company and occasionally drove some of their trucks. A lover of music, Elmer spent time singing in a barbershop quartet and joined the choir of the Dauphin Street Baptist Church. Elmer was active in many youth programs and sang in the choir and the Men’s Quartet with a marvelous booming baritone voice.

He developed a romantic relationship with the gifted pianist Mildred Johnson, who later described him as a “good Baritone” who was usually quiet and didn’t have much to say. In sharp contrast to the dignified Mildred, Elmer was notorious for his poor fashion standards. Johnson later admitted that Elmer was poorly dressed when he asked her to marry him.  Mildred’s mother saw a man of character disguised in pauper’s clothing so Mildred took her mother’s advice and agreed to marry Elmer. They were wed in October 1941. Within four months, Elmer was drafted into the army air corps and started basic training at Fort Meade, Maryland, on February 26, 1942. Two girls and two boys were born to their marriage.

Mr. Wilson served nearly four years (1941-1945) in the Army Air Corps. He trained at Moton Field, Tuskegee, Alabama where he achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant with the 99th Fighter Squadron as a Camera Technician and Plane Mechanic. As a Tuskegee Airmen, he served his country in Sicily, Italy, France, Germany, the Balkans and North Africa. His decorations included the Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with nine Bronze Star clusters. After returning to Philadelphia, Elmer was a Philadelphia Auto Parts Supervisor until his retirement in the early 70’s. Mr. Wilson, also known as Mixie, was quite the fixer; there was little he could not repair. He was an active member of the American Defenders of American Legion Post # 968, a Life Member of the VFW Post #5943 and along with his wife Mildred, a Charter member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen.  After moving to Tarpon Springs, Florida in 1988, Mr. Wilson transferred his membership to John M. Schneider Post # 10757.

Staff Sergeant Elmer H. Wilson passed away July 16, 1995 at the age of 87. Mrs. Mildred Wilson, his wife, passed away on April 16, 2014. Their children, Deborah Butler, Linda Newton, Anthony Wilson and Michael Wilson and their extended families still reside in Philadelphia, PA.

About a year after Elmer’s death, Mildred finally received replacement war medals for the ones lost in the mail in 1944. They were presented to her at a ceremony at the local VFW post with four surviving Tuskegee Airmen in attendance.  Nick Contomarinos, the post commander said, “I only wish we could have replaced the medals when he was alive.” Mildred went on to give presentations about Elmer and the Tuskegee Airmen. After a speech in January 2009, she was approached by Congressman Gus Bilirakis, who asked her if she would like to receive the 2007 Congressional Gold Medal commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen on Elmer’s behalf. At the acceptance ceremony in July, Bilirakis said, “The perseverance and courage exhibited by Staff Sergeant Wilson played an important role in the liberation of millions of people. I am honored to have the opportunity to help recognize his intrepid service, as well as the support and resolve of his wife, Mildred, who served as a constant pillar of strength back home.”